Join the World's Leading Personal Health and Guidance System: Truestar Health.
Free nutrition plans, exercise plans, and all around wellness plans. Join now for free!

Athlete’s Foot

Also indexed as: Fungal Infection (Foot), Tinea Pedis

Illustration

Athlete’s foot? The toes will tell you. A persistent, burning itch between the toes can send you running for relief. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful:

What you need to know

  • Keep it dry
  • To discourage fungal growth, dry feet thoroughly after showering or bathing, use foot powders, and change socks frequently
  • Let your feet see the light
  • Wear sandals or other open footwear to expose skin to sunlight’s antifungal effects
  • Try tea tree oil
  • Apply a 10% herbal concentration in a cream base as a natural alternative to antifungal medications

These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full athlete’s foot article for more in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and dietary and lifestyle changes that may be helpful.

About athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the foot that can be caused by a number of different skin fungi.

Generally, athlete’s foot does not cause serious problems; however, the disruption of the skin barrier can be a source of significant infections in people with impaired blood flow to the feet (such as people with diabetes) or in those with impaired immune systems. Infections of the nails are more difficult to treat than those affecting only the skin.

Product ratings for athlete’s foot

Science Ratings Nutritional Supplements Herbs
2Stars  

Tea tree oil

1Star  

Garlic

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of athlete’s foot include a persistent, burning itch that often starts between the toes. The skin on the feet may be damp, soft, red, cracked, or peeling; the feet may also show patches of dead skin. The feet often have a strong or unusual smell, and sometimes small blisters occur on the feet.

Medical options

Over the counter agents used to treat athlete’s foot are available as creams, powders, and sprays. Available drugs include clotrimazole (Lotrimin®), miconazole (Micatin®), terbinafine (Lamisil®), undecylenic acid (Desenex®) and tolnaftate (Tinactin®, Aftate®).

Topical prescription drugs used to treat athlete’s foot include econazole (Spectazole®), ketoconazole (Nizoral®), andciclopirox (Loprox®).

Drying powders can be used inside the socks and shoes to help keep the feet dry during the day.

Lifestyle changes that may be helpful

Keeping the feet dry is very important for preventing and fighting athlete’s foot. After showering or bathing, thorough drying or careful use of a hair dryer is recommended. Light is also an enemy of fungi. People with athlete’s foot should change socks daily to decrease contact with the fungus and should wear sandals occasionally to get sunlight exposure.

Herbs that may be helpful

Tea tree oil has been traditionally used to treat athlete’s foot. One trial reported that application of a 10% tea tree oil cream reduced symptoms of athlete’s foot just as effectively as drugs and better than placebo, although it did not eliminate the fungus.1

The compound known as ajoene, found in garlic, is an antifungal agent. In a group of 34 people using a 0.4% ajoene cream applied once per day, 79% of them saw complete clearing of athlete’s foot after one week; the rest saw complete clearing within two weeks.2 All participants remained cured three months later. One trial found a 1% ajoene cream to be more effective than the standard topical drug terbinafine for treating athlete’s foot.3 Ajoene cream is not yet available commercially, but topical application of crushed, raw garlic may be a potential alternative application.

Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual herb for information about any side effects or interactions.

References:

1. Tong MM, Altman PM, Barnetson RS. Tea tree oil in the treatment of tinea pedis. Aust J Dermatol 1992;33:145–9.

2. Ledezma E, DeSousa L, Jorquera A, et al. Efficacy of ajoene, an organosulphur derived from garlic, in the short-term therapy of tinea pedis. Mycoses 1996;39:393–5.

3. Ledezma E, Marcano K, Jorquera A, et al. Efficacy of ajoene in the treatment of tinea pedis: A double-blind and comparative study with terbinafine. J Am Acad Dermatol 2000;43:829–32.

All Indexes
Health Issues Men's Health Women's Health
Health Centers Cold, Flu, Sinus, and Allergy Diabetes Digestive System Pain and Arthritis Sports Nutrition
Safetychecker by Drug by Herbal Remedy by Supplement
Homeopathy by Remedy
Herbal Remedies by Botanical Name
Integrative Options
Foodnotes Food Guide by Food Group Vitamin Guide